This September our family took a fascinating trip to a country steeped in history and somewhat stuck in a time warp, the Caribbean island of Cuba.
Cuba is in fact an archipelago with the principle island being about two-thirds the size of Florida. Then there is the Isla de Juventud (Isle of Youth) and about 4,195 cayos (keys) and islets, this cluster of islands make up Cuba.
We began our trip with a 3 night stay in Varadero, Cuba’s only real beach resort. Here we relaxed, became acclimatised to the hot humid weather, and sipped many a Mojito and Cuba Libre. From here we were transferred to Havana, to begin a tour of this wonderful country.
Havana Cuba’s capital city is vibrant, exciting and chaotic. We spent 2 nights right in the centre in one of the city’s oldest colonial hotels. On arrival we were immediately drawn to a salsa/jazz group of beautiful women, entertaining the hotel guests at the lobby bar. Fantastic! This theme of live music was with us throughout our stay in Cuba. In fact everywhere we went, every lunch and dinner there was a mariachi band to entertain us. The music was so good, and the performers all so charming, we came back with quite a few CD’s!
Havana is a cultural melting pot, fascinating in its colonial grandeur, beautiful architecture and in the diversity of its citizen.Every street seems to have a story to tell and of course there are those gorgeous cars of the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Rows of parked Cadillacs, Chevrolets and other models, for hire as taxis, create a rainbow of colour at street level, a sight that any lover of classic cars will not forget.
Our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable and so we were educated in the country’s history throughout our trip. Watching cigars being made at a cigar factory was an eye opener, and we ate some wonderful food. The lobster was especially delicious eaten in one of Cuba’s private house restaurants and we even had a cocktail making event in one of Havana’s oldest bars.
Trinidad, our next stopover, is beautiful colonial town steeped in grandeur, with many of its buildings adorned with French chandeliers and Italian frescoes. We stayed in a beautifully restored colonial palace, situated on the Plaza Major and from our balcony we had clear view over the square and Cuban life being played out there. A visit to the We took a drive in a 1957 Fairlane Convertible to a public beach not far from Trinidad and enjoyed the best Mojito whilst strolling along this lovely stretch of soft sand.
The port city of Cienfuegos was next for one night. Having been occupied by French immigrants from Bordeaux and Louisiana, it felt more ‘French’ than ‘Spanish’ with its sprawling boulevards. But once again there is beautiful architecture to behold. We especially loved the Tomas Terry Theatre National Monument right in the centre of the city.
Our final stop was in Viñales, to the far west of Cuba. Viñales, a traditional Cuban town has a warm and friendly vibe about it, staying in a Casa Particular (Cuba’s equivalent to a B & B) we felt totally at home. From here we visited the Indian caves, a wonderful large network of caves, with great stalagmites and stalactites, and an Indian Village. Sad to be leaving we spent our last evening in a small bar across the street from our residence. With its exposed dance floor in the centre, this bar produced the most potent Mojitos,and wonderful entertainment. We listened to some amazing live music, watched some beautiful dancers and when invited to join them, I was in Salsa heaven!
Cuba is an intoxicating place, just can’t wait to go back again!
By Lucia Raffaini